That new-found dedication was evident early in the season when, in her first race of the year Sept. 9, Paul finished first in the 20th Burbank All-City Cross-Country Meet, clocking a time of 19 minutes 29 seconds on the Griffith Park course.
Paul followed that with a fine effort later that month in the prestigious Woodbridge Invitational. Paul ran the fastest three-mile time in Burbank girls' history, finishing in 17:46 to finish second in the gold race.
Her success continued in October in the Mt. SAC Invitational. Paul placed 11th in 18:44 in the Individual Sweepstakes, helping the Bulldogs finish 10th out of the Division I schools on the three-mile course. The team time of 1:38:05 was the fastest ever run by a Burbank girls' team, breaking the previous effort by almost three minutes.
Paul went on to a fourth-place finish (19:19.94) in the league finals, propelling the Bulldogs to a third-place finish.
"Our league is always tough; you can count on that," Paul said.
At the CIF preliminaries, Paul finished sixth in her heat with a time of 18:12, qualifying her for the finals, and moving her a step closer to earning a spot in the State Meet. Running in wet, rainy conditions in the Division I finals race, Paul came in 11th in 18:44. Her time was just five seconds shy of earning her a spot in state.
"That was tough; missing going to state by five seconds," Paul said. "At first I really got down on myself. But then I thought about it, and I had never made it that far. I was able to improve a lot and I can't get down on myself for that.
"I did give it my all, and I ended up having a great year all around."
Said Marca: "Normally, 11th place is enough for you to advance. But not in that race."
With her high school cross-country career behind her, Paul will now focus on her final track and field campaign. Marca said Paul will have a chance to break at least four school records in track.
"I really feel that all the pressure is off McKenzie now that the cross-country season is over," Marca said. "She knows that she is going to compete in college and she doesn't have to run for a scholarship.
"To me it's not a mater of will she run fast, but how fast will she run? It's not a matter of if she'll break school records, but how many school records will she break? We are looking forward to a very good track season."
With a focus on the 800, Paul said she will continue her tough training regimen in order to be in tip-top shape come spring.
"Track is what I look forward to," said Paul, who has received several offers from colleges, including Sacramento State and San Diego State. "I'll be ready."